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Horizon Forbidden West has 2022's best open world

Kate Harrold

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| Last updated 

Horizon Forbidden West has 2022's best open world

Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

You wouldn’t think so from a quick look at its accolades but I truly believe that Horizon Forbidden West is criminally underrated. I know what you’re thinking. Forbidden West has an impressive seven Game Award nominations, plus there’s that very respectable score of 88 over on Metacritic. How is it criminally underrated? Well in this regard, Forbidden West has earnt the praise it deserves but that’s not the impression I get when it comes to the general consensus.

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Horizon Forbidden West didn’t land at the best time - sandwiched between Pokémon Legends Arceus and Elden Ring. It’s Elden Ring that really made things tricky for Forbidden West though. Let’s be honest, it completely stole its thunder. For a good while in March and April, Elden Ring was the only thing the gaming industry could talk about. Half-completed Forbidden West saves were abandoned in favour of the Lands Between. Even now, God of War Ragnarök is being hailed as one of the greatest PlayStation games of all-time and rightfully so, but I also struggle to distinguish it in quality from Horizon Forbidden West. Why is no one else I speak to on the same wavelength?

Horizon Call of the Mountain launches on 22 February, 2023. Will you be checking out this PSVR2 title?

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Back when Horizon Forbidden West was released, it was praised for its improvements upon its predecessor. The world is more vast, NPCs look and behave like real people, the side quests have weight and significance … I could go on. What I really want to draw attention to though is Forbidden West’s open world, which if you ask me, is 2022’s very best open world - perhaps even one of the greatest open worlds of all-time. It’s an argument I’ve tried to put forward to my GAMINGbible companions, but let this mark my official attempt at convincing them I’m right.

Horizon Forbidden West’s open world is stunning to look at, but an all-time great open world needs far more than to just look good. I have to point it out though. In fact, if you climb to the top of The Mountain, you can survey almost all of Forbidden West’s map - taking in four out of six of the game’s Tallnecks. It’s just one example of the detail that Forbidden West’s world has to offer. There isn’t an inch of this map that hasn’t been meticulously thought out.

The key to a good open world is variety. A game has no mileage if players feel like they’re trudging through the same landscapes over and over again. There’s no greater array of delectable biomes this year than those you’ll find in Forbidden West. There’s the snowy mountainous region surrounding The Bulwark, the tropical climes of The Memorial Grove, the old-world neon magic of Hidden Ember, plus the barren wasteland that is Scalding Spear - and that’s just to name a few. Throughout your journey on Horizon Forbidden West, you’ll travel through every kind of terrain imaginable.

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Horizon Forbidden West / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Horizon Forbidden West / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

I said Forbidden West’s magic lies far beyond aesthetics though. The true magic of Forbidden West’s map is that everything feels so real. Side quests reflect the way in which the different tribes have been shaped by their environmental surroundings. Machines vary between regions. In mountainous areas, you’ll be challenged by Dreadwings. Near the ocean, Tiderippers and Shellsnappers will cause you grief. Variety in Forbidden West never feels forced. This is a world that feels organically shaped - as if it’s how it’s meant to be.

The game’s weather also plays into its beauty. In the desert, you’ll be plagued by sudden sandstorms, intensifying any combat encounters Aloy may have. Get caught in the eye of a dust storm and you may even be pushed off your feet. In the tropical areas, you may notice Aloy slow after a long run. That heat soon takes its toll on her. Pay attention and you may even notice Aloy wiping the sweat off her forehead. This is what I mean when I say that Forbidden West’s world feels real. Every sensation we experience in real life is emulated. It doesn’t always affect the gameplay, but it does affect the experience.

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Horizon Forbidden West / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Horizon Forbidden West / Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

This is why I truly believe that Horizon Forbidden West ends is the most perfectly fitting way - and don’t worry, I’m not going to address any narrative spoilers. As the credits roll, Aloy glides above the entirety of the map atop the back of Sunwing - right from The Daunt all the way to Legacy’s Landfall. From a unique perspective, you can survey every single outpost, city, region, and cauldron you’ve encountered. What’s even cooler is that this happens in-game, it’s not a pre-rendered cutscene. By the time I reached Legacy’s Landfall, I was in awe of the experience that Horizon Forbidden West provided me with. I lived every second of the game alongside Aloy and as people start thinking back on the game’s that 2022 brought us, I hope those unfinished Horizon Forbidden West saves are resumed. There’s so much richness to be discovered in this game. Please, go discover it.

Topics: Horizon Forbidden West, Horizon Zero Dawn, PlayStation, Opinion

Kate Harrold
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